A lover of nature, Dr Gani Wiyono believes that the earth needs divine healing and Christians have a part to play. In this interview, he explains why.
Dr Gani Wiyono holds an interesting portfolio. The senior pastor of the Assemblies of God church GSJA El-Roi Grogol in Jakarta, Indonesia is also a senior lecturer and the director of the Pentecostal Research Centre in Satyabhakti Theological College in Malang, and the director of the department of education for the Assemblies of God in Indonesia.
Besides being theologically trained, Dr Wiyono also holds a PhD in Chemistry from Brawijaya State University in Malang. He is a lover of nature and treasures God’s creations in the wild.
At the Global Pentecostal Summit 2023, Dr Wiyono presented a paper entitled “Healing God’s Creation: A Contribution of Pentecostal Understanding of Divine Healing to Ecotheology In Response to the Global Ecological Crisis”. It it, he offered his understanding of eco-theology through the distinct lens of Pentecostal theology, and focused on using divine healing (one of the tenets of the Fivefold Gospel) as the basis to explain why Christians should be concerned about the world’s ecological issues.
Interestingly, he illustrated two points using the story of the Good Samaritan. Firstly, Christians are to love everyone, including those who are seen as enemies. Amidst the ecological crisis that has hit the world, his paper emphasised the need to deconstruct the traditional understanding that one’s neighbour is only their fellow human beings and to also consider the non-human elements of creation on this Earth as one’s “neighbour”.
Secondly, in the parable, the injured man could not heal himself but needed help to recover. The Good Samaritan was person who helped in the healing process. Dr Wiyono’s reasoning was that the Earth, our “neighbour” is sick, and it looks like she cannot help herself, thus Christians especially Pentecostals should fill the role of the Good Samaritan for the Earth.
City News sat down with Dr Wiyono to talk about his paper and his ministry.
What sparked your passion for eco-theology?
I’d say that it’s the city of Jakarta—in terms of air pollution, it is the worst place on earth. That’s why I think it is important for me to address this issue directly from the point of view of a religious leader. I also want to encourage my church members to deal with the ecological crisis wisely.
When did you first start getting interested in this topic?
It’s been more than 20 years now. You can say that I am a naturalist—I like wildlife. That’s why, when I see wildlife degraded, I am so sad. When people cut down trees, kill animals, and pollute the clean water, I feel so sad. I knew I had to do something about it. I came across some literature where some people say that the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis and not economic or material. The source of the root of the ecological crisis is something spiritual, not something that’s economical. That was what made me think, “Oh, this is where that I can contribute as a theologian.”
In your paper, you said that the Earth is the temple of God, just as our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you made the connection that both the Earth and our human bodies need divine healing. How did you come to that conclusion?
I was born on Java Island. The Javanese say that the human being is like a microcosmos, and the universe is a macro cosmos, and there is a link between the two. This is the Javanese view.
In that sense, it is ingrained in your culture that there is this connection between the human body and the Earth. What are your thoughts on how the health of the Earth affects mankind?
In Latin, human beings are homo ecologicus. We cannot live on our own; we are part of the ecosystem. If the ecosystem is damaged, it will affect us. So, there is a link between us and the world outside. Air quality affects us all. If we cut down all the trees, there would be no oxygen and we’d die. So, we cannot live on our own. That’s just the air we’re talking about There are so many other elements: water, land, plants and animals.
You also made the point that historically, Pentecostals are rather apathetic towards global ecological issues. Many Christians remain unconcerned about issues such as global warming, or other eco threats. So why do you think that is?
It is not only Pentecostals that think so. Non-Pentecostals generally do not care so much about ecology either. Why? Because of the way we read the Bible. When we read the Bible, it seems to be anthropocentric instead of God-centric or cosmos-centric. That’s why when we talk about salvation, we talk about personal salvation, but not cosmic salvation. But when we read the Bible carefully, we can see that salvation encompasses not only human beings but also non-human beings.
If this is our starting point—for readers of this article wanting to start to change our thinking and be more mindful of the environment—what are some steps we can take, individually or as a community of faith?
We can start small. We can reduce, reuse and recycle. For example, this (holding up a plastic water bottle)—it’s better if we can recycle it. In Indonesia, we have waste banks where we can donate plastic to be recycled.
The second thing is we can plant more trees. Maybe once a year, on our birthday—this is something so simple. We’re giving a birthday present to the Earth, and if we can pass this ritual down to our children, I think our children will learn to love our global village.
As I mentioned in my presentation, if I had the chance to plant a church, I would plant a “green church” in terms of how to construct a building. I would use solar panels to preserve nature and our natural resources.
The main point of your paper is to “love your neighbour as yourself”, but by “neighbour”, you are not only referring to other human beings but nature as well. How did you come to this conclusion?
For every paper we write, we must do deep reflection—thinking about the topic over and over. I want to write something quite different because I don’t just want to repeat what has been written. Perhaps it will help and inspire others to study it further. This is just the beginning. I don’t think I can answer all the questions.
Do you see yourself pursuing this topic in future papers?
Oh, yes. I’m trying to expand it because this paper is only on one aspect of the Five-fold Gospel—healing. I want to expand it to include three or four other aspects.
What inspired you to use the Five-fold Gospel? (Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Baptiser in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and soon-coming king)
Because that is the cardinal doctrine of Pentecostalism–the full Gospel. I wanted to write something from the perspective of Pentecostal theology because if you read eco-theology in the church, there have been many thinkers writing about it from different perspectives but not from a distinct Pentecostal perspective.
 Homo ecologicus is characterised by (a) sympathy with and respect for nature, (b) an orientation of its own creativity upon the creativity found in nature, and (c) a relation with nature, which is especially based on personal experience and encounter with it.